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This week:

From Hell

Filthy says:
"It's authentic. turn-of-the-
century crap."

From Hell is supposed to be a delightful romp in the vein of Pretty Woman. Like that old shitty chestnut, From Hell has a virginal hooker who never seems to have to put out to get paid, and she is saved from the fate of whores by a higher-brow savior. The main differences between the two, I suppose, are that From Hell has a shitload more blood, intestines and gore, and, far as I can tell, it isn't trying to be funny. It's trying to be really fucking artsy in that "dark+somber=art" way that Hollywood loves to dredge up toward the end of every year. But if you were one of the millions that wished that the folks in Pretty Woman had gotten slashed to ribbons by Jack the Ripper, you'll love From Hell.

Near the turn of the 20th century, Johnny Depp plays Scotland Yard inspector Abberline. who has clairvoyant crime visions while under the influence of opium, absinthe or laudanum. Just think what a fucking great crimestopper he'd have been if Testor's model glue had been around. Holy shit, when I was a kid a little of that and I could see through my parent's walls. Depp is pursuing Jack the Ripper, who is methodically killing hookers in the slummy Whitechapel District of London. Depp pursues the Ripper and, apparently, falls in love with one of the whores, played by Heather Graham. She proves that she not only can do an Irish accent, but that she can do about 100 variations on it, all within two hours. Bravo, Heather! Like Julia Roberts' Pretty Woman, Graham is the purest fucking hooker in the world. She never actually has sex, solicits it, does drugs or even gets anything more than stylishly dirty. It's a long way from the skin-traders on Denver's Federal Boulevard. Those broads will sell your nuts if there's an extra buck in it. Or so I hear.

Depp's visions and investigation lead him into conflict with his superiors ("You're over the line, Abberline!") and, eventually, the royal family and the Freemasons. I'd like to say that this storyline becomes intriguing and complex, but that would be a dirty fucking fib. It lies there in the road, as lifeless and flat as a squirrel on the Wadsworth Bypass. The budding romance between Depp and Graham is about as developed as a 12-year-old boy . But these are the thrusts of the story. Boy meets whore who is much prettier than the others. Boy falls in love with pretty whore. Boy must save pretty whore from mysterious slasher. Spend a shitload on the sets, costumes and film-school trickery and you've got art, Hollywood style.

From Hell looks great. All the money must have gone into recreating 1888 London in Prague. And if the point of the movie was to be a 19th Century travelogue, well done. Everything down to the dresses and cobblestone feels pretty fucking authentically run down and covered in shit. But, if I wanted to see that I could go to the real London, 2001. And accurately recreating a place and time is fucking easy compared to telling a story well. All re-creation takes is money, time and good historica documents; telling a story takes imagination, which From Hell doesn't have.

And really, why bother making something pretty if it's neither smart nor interesting? From Hell is two hours of arty scenes that build to absolutely nothing. There is no increasing tension, fear, suspicion or intrigue. It presents itself as a mystery, but a mystery unravels slowly and builds to a climax where the killer is revealed. Here, they might as well put a flashing red arrow on the screen pointing at him from his first scene. "Here he is!" "This is the killer!"

And the killer's reasons for the murders is a ludicrous mish-mash of conspiracy theories and hogwash, the kind of shit that comic-book geeks masturbate over. And once explained, their convolutedness deflate the movie like a punctured colostomy bag, spilling shit all over us. While the killer is obvious, the motivations stretch believability until it sags more than Candy Bottom's tits.

From Hell manages the feat of being unnecessarily gory while scare-free. If you want to see throats slit and women disemboweled by directors who get a little too much pleasure out of it, then buy your ticket. The Hughes are so pleased with their gore that they show us many, many characters choke back vomit. Oh, yeah, that's entertainment. There's no better way to move a plot forward than reaction shots of men about to vomit. I can't think of anything I'd rather pay eight bucks to see. The Hughes show blood pouring from necks, blood spattered on faces, fresh bloody hearts and plenty of blood-soaked surgical tools. Really, if I wanted to see that kind of blood flow, I'd tell the Arvada Tavern Harelip that Lori has been gossiping about her again. And I don't want to, because I'm a fucking pussy about that kind of stuff.

There's a lot of very perfunctory acting going on. Without being given any direction for their characters, Depp, Graham and Ian Holm just appear in scene after scene, speaking their lines with the conviction of a Daewoo salesman.

According to my movie critic's handbook, I see that I am supposed to come up with some corny play on words using the movie's name, but I assume that all the hack critics already used the good ones. Let's just say that From Hell sucks, From Hell. And all the fake blood and bogus cobblestone in Prague can't hide that. Two Fingers for From Hell.

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